Global Policy Forum

General Articles, Analysis, and Debate

UN Documents

Recent research suggests that 40% of all intrastate conflicts in the last sixty years have some connection to natural resources. This report from the United Nations Environment Programme looks at the linkages between the environment, conflict, and peacebuilding. It considers the ways in which environmental factors can contribute to the outbreak of violence, perpetuate existing conflicts and undermine prospects for peace. In turn, it notes that environmental damage can result from conflict. The report also suggests that the environment and natural resources can be used to contribute to peacebuilding and cooperation. (UNDP)

Interim Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (November 27, 2006)

The Group of Experts reports to the Sanctions Committee that there is "a clear geographical correlation" between the activities of armed groups and natural resources exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report also highlights a wide range of security threats such as lack of transparency in conducting business activities, and extortion attempts made by State actors, from low level military personnel to senior government officials. It recommends amongst other things that the Congolese government: submit monthly reports about the natural resources field to the Sanctions Committee, develop a formalized natural resource control system, and monitor arms transfers, trafficking and smuggling.

Report of the Panel of Experts on Cote d'Ivoire (November 7, 2005)

The Panel of Experts assesses the role of natural resources, such as cotton, diamonds, and cocoa in fuelling the conflict in Ivory Coast and the effectiveness of the arms embargo. The panel is especially concerned that the illicit trade of diamonds provides an important income to the rebel group New Forces. The report calls on the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast and the Kimberley Process Secretariat to evaluate the volume of illicit diamond exports. The group also recommends that the Security Council ask the rebel group to provide an inventory of the weapons in its possession and the Ivorian government to submit a breakdown of its defense expenditures.

Resolution 1625 (September 14, 2005)

In a resolution on conflict prevention, the Security Council has acknowledged for the first time the link between natural resources and armed conflict, vowing to take action against illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources, particularly in Africa.

Resolution 1653 (January 27, 2006)

The Security Council adopted Resolution 1653 in a ministerial-level debate on regional dimensions of peace and security in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The resolution calls on the Governments of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to disarm and demobilize militias and armed groups, especially northern Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. The resolution also acknowledges the link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources, the illicit trade of those resources and the proliferation and trafficking of arms as key factors fuelling and exacerbating the conflicts in the Great Lakes. Resolution 1653 thus urges the countries of the region to promote lawful and transparent use of natural resources among themselves and in the region.


Simply Criminal: Targeting Rogue Business in Violent Conflict (November 2010)

Corporations play a direct role in perpetuating conflict when they do business with some of the actors, but they are rarely held accountable for their actions. This Global Witness report highlights what governments can do to promote corporate due diligence. It recommendations include targeting natural resource sectors. (Global Witness)

Lessons UNLearned (January 27, 2010)

The UN and its member states should develop a more coherent and committed approach toward conflicts driven by natural resources says a new report by Global Witness. Global Witness offers many recommendations for tackling these conflicts. GW propose that the UN devote more resources to support sanctions committees, to ensure that sanctions be better timed and more strictly targeted. Sanctions would then hopefully be more effective and create fewer adverse side effects. Global Witness also highlights the importance of demilitarizing the exploitation of natural resources, to avoid the renewal of conflict after peace agreements. (Global Witness)

Resource-Conflict Links In Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (October 2008)

Sierra Leone and the DRC suffer from a "resource curse," meaning that the presence of natural resources damages their economy and fuels armed conflict. This SIPRI report stresses that eliminating resource wars requires more than blocking rebels' access to natural resources by sanctions, interventions and certification schemes. The governments of Sierra Leone and the DRC must strengthen and clarify the rights of local communities in relation to foreign companies that exploit natural resources.

Definition of Conflict Resources (August 2007)

In order to press the UN Security Council to address the problem of conflict resources, Global Witness provides a definition of when the exploitation of natural resources becomes illegitimate and "contribute[s] to, benefit[s] from or result[s] in the commission of serious violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law."

Diamonds, Rubber and Forests in the New Liberia (July 2007)

To reform Liberia's natural resource sector, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf created institutions like the Public Procurement and Contracts Commission and the Foreign Concession Review Committee, which evaluate contracts with companies such as Mittal Steel and Firestone Rubber. But to ensure that resources fuel development and not conflict, Liberia should analyze the past role of resources in its economy. Further, governmental agencies should form a cohesive position on management of Liberia's gold, diamonds, timber and other resource assets. (Partnership Africa Canada and the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia)

The Sinews of War: Eliminating the Trade in Conflict Resources (November 2006)

This Global Witness report focuses on Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Angola and Cambodia as case studies, investigating the role of natural resources in the countries' conflicts and the UN's responses. The report recommends in particular that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution defining "conflict" resources under which action including sanctions could be taken by the international community. Further, it highlights the importance of the Security Council using its power to refer individuals trafficking in conflict resources to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

Global Witness Open Letter on the Peacebuilding Commission (November 4, 2005)

Global Witness believes that the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) should have the mandate to look into the role of natural resources in conflict. The PBC will likely work in many areas where natural resources have driven and perpetuated conflicts. Therefore, the PBC should take action against illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources in order to build sustainable peace and reconciliation.

Global Witness Open Letter to the UN Security Council, Regarding Conflict Resources and Peacekeeping in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (March 18, 2005)

Global Witness criticizes the UN Security Council for insufficiently addressing the nexus between the illegal exploitation of natural resources and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Liberia. In particular, this letter argues that the Council should expand UN peacekeepers' mandate in the DRC to allow for monitoring and protection of natural resources and should deploy more troops to resource-rich areas of Liberia. Global Witness recommends that the Council "mainstream into the mandate of all peacekeeping missions a monitoring and reporting component related to natural resource exploitation."

NGO Letter on Natural Resources and Conflict to the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (October 11, 2004)

This open letter by Global Witness, World Vision and Global Policy Forum calls on the Panel to consider how natural resource exploitation fuels conflict worldwide. The letter urges the UN to create a working definition of "conflict resources" and to establish a Secretariat office or permanent inter-agency task force on natural resources issues.

NGO Proposals on Natural Resources and Conflict (November 2003)

This paper recommends that the Security Council adopt a clear definition of "conflict resources" and use international law to curb the exploitation of natural resources in conflict. The paper further recommends industry-wide initiatives, including increased transparency and accountability, as well as initiatives within the UN system, such as the establishment of a Council working group or committee.

Same Old Story: A Background Study on Natural Resources in the DRC (July 2004)

Global Witness traces the history of natural resource exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting the ways in which such exploitation promoted and intensified armed conflict. The report recommends that the Security Council grant the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) the authority to "monitor and report on natural resource exploitation" in the country.

Natural Resources and Violent Conflict: Options and Actions (2003)

Countries whose economies depend heavily on natural resources face a greater risk of conflict. Rebel groups fund their activities and wage war with illicit exploitation and trade, while corrupt elites drain off the revenues of natural resources. The World Bank recommends that governments of low-income resource-rich countries improve governance transparency and accountability.


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Land holds key to Kenyan rivalries (March 4, 2013)

Many Kenyans believe land disputes are the root causes of election violence. In 1918, the British occupied over three million hectares of land, which is significant considering this constituted almost one fifth of the total arable land. Over time, when the colonial land was distributed, post-independence chiefs allocated land in a way that boosted their electoral base. This resulted in many tribes, such as the Nubian population, living illegally in informal settlements, struggling to gain the title deeds for land they have occupied for centuries. Since the emergence of multi-party democracy, politicians have exploited land grievances as rallying point during campaigns. Kenyans remain unconvinced that the current leaders are committed to land reforms because these reforms directly threaten the interests of the political elite. The Kenya Land Alliance estimates that the Kenyatta family, one of the election’s favorites, owns as much as half a million acres. (Al Jazeera)    

France Is Increasing Security at Sites in Niger and at Home (January 24, 2013)

Following its military intervention in Mali, France has sent special military forces and equipment to help protect sites of uranium production in Niger. France currently gets three quarters of its total electricity from nuclear reactors fueled largely by Nigerien uranium. The largest French nuclear company operating in Niger, Areva, was already targeted in September 2010. Seven workers were kidnapped on one of its sites, and four French citizens are held hostage in the region. Following France’s engagement in Mali, French President François Hollande has tightened security in Niger and at home. French soldiers and police are patrolling government buildings, subways, and main streets around Paris. (New York Times)


A Global Energy Shift (November 28, 2012)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published the World Energy Outlook report in which a large shift in global energy production through 2030 is predicted. North America will undergo a “supply boom”, leading to lower global energy prices, following the extraction of shale gas and unconventional oil. However, these extraction processes, including oil from tar sands, raise environmental concerns. Simultaneously, in China, Japan and India the demand for natural resources will soar. This monumental shift in the world’s energy supply and demand could increase tensions in the Asia-Pacific and in the Middle East as the world’s largest economies are shifting their geopolitical focus according to their energy needs. (The Diplomat)

The Arctic: Treasure in the Vacuum (November 27, 2012)

Climate change is opening up economic opportunities in the Arctic, such as access to fishing grounds, oil and gas fields and the opening of new shipping routes. The Arctic Five (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US) and Sweden, Finland, Iceland, China and the EU are vying for a share of these treasures. Despite the international legal mechanisms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Arctic Council, this power vacuum is inviting a geopolitical scramble for the region’s wealth. Additionally, nations’ defense of sovereignty is causing border tensions. These countries are certainly aware of the ecological vulnerability of the region, but economic and territorial gain trumps environmental security. According to this article, the Arctic power vacuum is causing classic realist tensions in the race for the region’s treasures. (Open Democracy)

Informing the People: Oil Contracts Demystified (November 21, 2012)

The oil industry is known to be secretive and corruption-prone. Moreover, oil contracts are extremely difficult to unravel. However, transparency in the oil sector is increasing even if it begins from a very low level. Governments are increasingly publishing their contracts with international oil companies. But still, oil contracts are extremely difficult to read and understand. This article discusses OpenOil’s attempt at writing a book on how to read and understand oil contracts. In this regard, it hopes to inform the local population about how the oil sector works. (Think Africa Press)

The Battle for the Arctic (November 14, 2012)

This Fault Line video discusses how, as the Arctic ice-cover melts, countries in the region such as Canada, the US, Russia, Norway and Greenland, are increasingly competing to exploit the vast oil and gas deposits locked beneath the ice. With the mining and energy boom on the horizon, the US, NATO and Russia have been carrying out large scaled military exercises in the far north. However, Artic countries are not only preparing to use their military for protection. There is considerable evidence that militaries are not only developing coast guards and rescue capabilities, but also combat capabilities. (Al Jazeera)

Brazil's Amazon Rangers Battle Farmers' Burning Business Logic (November 14, 2012)

Hectares of forests are cut down and burnt to the ground in the Brazilian Amazon to clear land for agriculture. On the one hand, an increasing drought in the US and rising world food prices make Brazilian soy, cotton and corn rise in demand. On the other hand, less trees and the release of carbon by burning forests and fields is exacerbating climate change. The agricultural sector lobbies for access to more land in the name of global hunger, while environmental campaigners are trying to stop forest loss to fight global warming. Moreover, Brazilian laws are loosening ecological protection measures and making it even harder to limit deforestation. (Guardian)

Zimbabwe: Key Issues Ignored At Vic Falls Diamond Conference (November 13, 2012)

At the Zimbabwe Diamond Conference started in Victoria Falls, top politicians and officials form the diamond industry both praised Zimbabwe’s efforts for improving its accountability and transparency in the sector. However, the recent Partnership Africa Canada report demonstrates that the diamond industry remains very much governed by corruption. The report shows that billions of dollars have been diverted since 2008 alone. (AllAfrica)

How to Rob Africa? (November 8, 2012)

The African continent is rich in natural resources that generate big profits. In Zimbabwe for example, billions of dollars’ worth of diamonds are being produced every year. However, little profit reaches the country’s treasury. This documentary discusses how corrupt government officials are channeling big mining profits into secret US and European bank accounts. Anonymous off-shore companies and investment entities in the West encourage and benefit from this practice. (Al Jazeera)

A Secret Subsidy - Oil Companies, the Navy and the Response to Piracy (October 26, 2012)

UK oil and gas companies are lobbying for more military subsidies for counter piracy operations. Platform London released a report that discusses how oil and gas companies have presented their private interests, to protect corporate oil assets at sea, as a public concern over the threat of piracy. Although at its height, less than 1% of tankers travelling through the Gulf of Aden have been hijacked, the companies are demanding increased spending on military capabilities to safeguard their trade vessels. In times of economic austerity, tax-payers are paying for the security of multinational corporations. (Platform London)

Gold Mine Drives Wedge in Guatemala (October 25, 2012)

The Marlin mine in the Guatemalan Mayan community is one of most profitable mines in the region. However, the mining of yellow-rock and gold has started against the will of the local population. While the company operating the mine argues that these activities are contributing to valuable economic development by building infrastructure, schools and health clinics, NGO activists have expressed concerns over human rights violations and environmental harms caused by the mine. (Al Jazeera)

Malawi Oil: A Blessing or a Curse? (October 22, 2012)

In one of the world’s poorest countries, oil could transform the Malawian economy or give rise to institutionalized corruption and environmental destruction without benefiting the general population. West Africa has many resource rich nations. Ghana is a positive example of a country where there is active involvement of civil society in the exploitation of oil and gas. However, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Angola are suffering from corruption, mismanagement, impunity and injustice, which impair sustainable social, economic and environmental development. Malawi has not yet announced how it is planning to manage its oil. (Guardian)

Is a War over the Nile Still Imminent? (October 18, 2012)

Rights to the waters of the Nile have been long disputed between downstream and upstream countries. According to the 1929 and 1959 colonial treaties, Egypt and Sudan hold absolute rights to the Nile's waters. However, after independence, these agreements have been contested. Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which would provide the country with hydroelectric power as well irrigation flow. Downstream states, especially Egypt, have felt threatened by Ethiopia's actions. If diplomatic efforts were to be fail, these tensions could potentially lead to serious regional conflict. (ISS)

Nigeria: Stolen Oil, Stolen Revenue (October 17, 2012)

Oil theft in Nigeria has been soaring in recent years. Oil tapping both occurs through local artisanal bunkering and organized illegal practices at the export terminal. High-level politicians, military officers, militant leaders and oil company employees are all likely to be involved in the practice. Foreign Western corporations, however, have not been seriously affected by the oil theft since they are taxed on the number of barrels exported and not on the number of barrels produced. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in 2011 urged for the setting up of a solid metering infrastructure. However, root causes of the oil bunkering, such as a shortage of alternative opportunities for youth, should primarily be addressed. (Think Africa Press)

Bust-up Between Aliyev and BP Reveals Corporate Profiteering as Azeri Oil Peaks (October 15, 2012)

Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, has accused BP of ceasing to increase its oil extraction, which has caused an $8 billion dollar loss in revenue for the country. BP's decision to lower its production followed the signing of the ACG Production Sharing Agreement, which specified that once BP made a certain amount of profit, the share in profit would shift, in favor of Azerbaijan. The country has been faced with declining oil revenues in the past, which led to "Oil Slumps" in the 1910s, 1940s and 1970s. This Platform article concludes by asking how Azerbaijan will face its next "Oil Slump." (Platform London)

Time to Improve State Participation in Africa’s Extractive Industries (October 12, 2012)

The rise in commodities prices over the past ten years has reignited the discussion on the government’s role in Africa’s mining sector. Governments have called for greater control of strategic mineral assets through the nationalization of natural resources and greater measures of control over foreign mining corporations. African governments argue that foreign corporate activity in the mining sector has had no positive impact on the socio-economic development of their countries.  However, it remains doubtful that greater mining revenues for African governments equal greater benefits for the local population. (African Arguments)

Nigerian Villagers Sue Shell in Landmark Pollution Case (October 11, 2012)

Nigerian villagers are suing Shell Petroleum Development Co, the largest oil and gas company in Nigeria, for polluting land and water in the Niger Delta region. The applicants demand compensation in the case currently heard in The Hague. Shell denies responsibility and claims that the leaks that caused the pollution were the result of sabotage and theft. The verdict of this case could be an important precedent for corporate liability. (Reuters)

Business Groups Sue SEC over Dodd-Frank Anti-Bribery Rule (October 10, 2012)

Business groups are challenging the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform in court. The bill requires private oil and gas companies’ payments to be made public in order to address corruption and monitor the effects of these companies on the local population. The challengers say that the rule would impose enormous costs on US private firms that would put them at a competitive disadvantage against state-owned companies. Also, the lawsuit claims that the rule would be violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution as the forced disclosure would be "in violation of their contractual and legal commitments." (Reuters)

Geopolitics, Energy and the Great African Lakes (October 10, 2012)

Hydrocarbon exploration of the British Surestream Petroleum corporation in Laky Nyasa has flared up unresolved territorial disputes between Tanzania and Malawi. This has resulted in an escalation of diplomatic tension between the two countries. While Tanzania claims fifty percent of the lake, Malawi asserts full ownership of Lake Nyasa under the principles of the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty signed in 1890 between the colonial powers. Because of the strategic location of Lake Nyasa in East Africa, the dispute could have broader geopolitical consequences for the region as a whole, which has been labeled an emerging hydrocarbon frontier in Africa. (OpenDemocracy)

BP’s Caucasus Gas Pipeline Blows Up, as Conflict Escalates Along Route (October 7, 2012)

A recent blast on BP’s South Caucasus Gas Pipeline has put a stop to gas exports from Azerbaijan to Turkey. While the Turkish Minister of Energy blames the Kurdish PKK for attacking the pipeline, the real cause of the blast is still unknown given diverging accounts of the Turkish government, gas companies and the PKK. Moreover, nearby residents are frightened that future explosions will wipe out their villages. The local population’s critique of the pipeline has been met with violent repression and state torture. This has already led to further escalation between the Turkish military and Kurdish opposition forces in recent months. (Platform London)

Blood and Gold: Inside Burma's Hidden War (October 4, 2012)

International euphoria about reform in Burma is premature. The government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) are violently clashing in northern Burma. After a 17-year ceasefire, the war in Kachin reignited last year when the Burmese Army attacked a KIA post near a disputed hydropower dam site. At stake is the resource-rich Kachin state, in which China and international corporations also have an interest for its minerals and prime timber. Peace talks between the two parties in Burma have not been successful. (Al Jazeera)

Ethiopia: Nile Waters Diplomacy and the Renaissance Dam (October 3, 2012)

Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, currently under construction on the Blue Nile near the Ethiopian border with Sudan, will provide hydroelectric power to enable Ethiopia’s industrial development. However, the dam project has led to tensions over water resources with downstream states, especially with Egypt. Egypt has historically claimed hegemony over the Nile waters, a claim based on a colonial-era agreement between the British protectorate in Egypt in 1929 and the British colonial governments of the upper Nile Basin countries, and a bilateral treaty in 1959 between Egypt and Sudan. Despite the establishment of a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) in 2010 which specifies the proportionate sharing of the Nile waters, this treaty has not been signed by either Egypt or Sudan. (African Arguments)

Uganda: Oil, Corruption and Entitlement (October 1, 2012)

Newly discovered oil and gas can turn out to be either a blessing or a curse for Uganda. While the political elite and major businesses are anticipating the profits these discoveries will generate, the production of these national resources could also aggravate political corruption and widen the national income gap. As the start of the production of oil and gas in Uganda will likely coincide with the term of a new president, a new political direction, in terms of economic differences and corruption, could take the country down a new path. But will it? (Guardian)

Is Brazil the Inheritor of the Portuguese Empire in Africa? (September 30, 2012)

Brazil is becoming one of the biggest investors on the African continent and could one day even challenge China in the scramble for Africa’s mineral deposits and consumer markets. Although Brazil claims to be establishing solely economic relationships, it should be careful not to be perceived as being an imperialist in doing so. A progressive socio-political agenda could soften the image of the major Brazilian corporations in Africa. (Al Jazeera)

From Illegal Logging to Timber Laundering (September 27, 2012)

Organized crime is becoming increasingly involved in the global illegal logging trade at the expense of local economies and communities. UNEP and INTERPOL have produced a report which concludes that without international coordinated enforcement, illegal loggers and cartels continue to shift from one location to another. In response, UNEP and INTERPOL have launched the LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance to Forests) project, which  seeks to develop an international system to combat organised crime related to illegal logging. (UNEP and INTERPOL)

Reserving Judgement on Tanzania's Natural Gas Discoveries (September 24, 2012)

The discovery of new natural gas reserves in Tanzania has generated much economic enthusiasm in the country. However, the scramble for Tanzania’s natural resources threatens to destabilize the relatively peaceful relations between the country and its neighbors. The exploration for oil and gas in Lake Nyasa has endangered current negotiations between Tanzania and Malawi over the disputed borders. Oil discoveries in Lake Tanganyika have also stoked clashes between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. Moreover, offshore oil findings threaten to encourage separatist movements in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. (Think Africa Press)

Race Is On As Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures (September 19, 2012)

Due to accelerating climate change the Arctic is melting faster than expected. Countries with territorial claims and non-Arctic countries are competing for political and economic roles in the region, where an estimated 20 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves are located and where soon new shipping routes will become available. The US and the EU are worried about China’s efforts to establish diplomatic and economic relations in the region. The role of the Arctic Council has transformed from a forum to a decision-making body, and in February next year the council will choose the countries that will be granted permanent observer status. (New York Times)

Trouble in the South China Sea (September 17, 2012)

Recent tensions in the South China Seas could potentially to destabilize the entire region if regional powers don’t engage in diplomatic efforts. The South China Sea is one of the most important maritime trade routes in the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, the region potentially contains large deposits of oil and gas. China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei all claims ownership over distinctive areas in the sea. The US- who has its own national interests at stake in the region- has condemned Beijing for abstaining from multilateral discussions on the territorial and maritime disputes in the region. These diplomatic tensions could potentially lead to a military conflict in the Asia-Pacific.  (Foreign Policy)

Mining in the Republic of Congo: Waiting for Profits (September 10, 2012)

After 50 year of political instability, the Republic of Congo is developing its mining sector apace. The 2005 Mining Code has encouraged international mining companies to start mining projects in Congo and invest in mineral exploration such as iron, potash and phosphate. Congo is now becoming a hot spot for western mining companies. The mining sector could potentially increase the country’s GDP, living standard and employment for local Congolese. However, for this to happen, mining companies’ activities need to be closely monitored by the Congolese government and take into consideration the local population’s interest. (African Arguments)

Liberia has Sold Quarter of its Land to Logging Companies, Says Report (September 4, 2012)

In the past two years, one quarter of the land in Liberia, the most heavily forested country in West Africa, has been allocated to foreign logging companies. The 40 percent share of Liberian forests that is now privately owned by logging companies may be razed to the ground. Companies have found a legal loophole for buying unlimited patches of private land through Private Use Permits (PUPs), which allows companies to bypass regulations on sustainability and size. Although Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission found land was one of the factors in the war, land reform in Liberia has not yet happened which might form a threat to peace. (Guardian)

The Corporate Scramble for Africa (September 2, 2012)

Following the Marikana mine killings in South Africa, this Al Jazeera article examines the struggle between local communities and western corporate firms in Africa. The World Bank has portrayed the mining industry as the key to Africa's future economic growth. But this new corporate scramble for Africa's natural resources has affected local communities and their respective hierarchies. This article suggests three things: governments need to renegotiate mining contracts and increase mining royalties, companies need to invest in using the skills of the local population, and finally governments need to commit to full transparency. (Al Jazeera)

Conflict Minerals: the Search for a Normative Framework (September 2012)

This Chatham House report discusses legal obligations on conflict minerals in the DRC. Violence in the eastern part of the country has persisted partly due to the illicit trade in minerals and the associated interests of various opposition groups. It was only in 2005 that the Security Council acknowledged the connection between armed conflict and minerals in the DRC for the first time. While many of the Council’s measures have been non-binding in the past, recent SC resolutions 1857 and 1952 have had binding legal force. (Chatham House)

Show Us The Money - Will Dodd Frank Force Oil Companies to Reveal Payments? (August 28, 2012)

After a delay of 16 months, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) passed rules 1502 and 1504 of the Dodd Frank financial regulation bill, which require oil and gas industries to publish all their payments to host governments. This flags an important step towards increasing transparency within the extractive sector. This new law could be an effective instrument to fight corruption and to monitor what benefits oil and gas companies bring to the local population. Moreover, it could oversee companies’ spending on “security” matters in host counties, as the Platform recent report on Shell’s payments to armed militias in Nigeria exemplifies. (Platform London)

Who Owns Lake Nyasa? (August 21, 2012)

Disputes between Malawi and Tanzania over the ownership of Lake Nyasa, which borders the two countries, were rekindled recently when Malawi awarded a contract to British Surestream Petroleum to start gas and oil exploration on the eastern part of the lake. The 1890 Heligoland Agreement between colonial Britain and Germany defined that the border of Lake Nyasa lies along the Tanzanian side of the lake. This was reasserted at the 1963 Organisation of African Unity summit. International law, however, designates that borders are generally in the middle of a body of water, implying half of the lake belongs to Tanzania. Explorations for oil and gas are likely to endanger the current negotiations between the two countries to resolve the border issue and even pose a security threat. (Think Africa Press)

Mongolia's Mining Boom Could Expose It to the Resource Curse (August 20, 2012)

Originally a nomadic country, Mongolia is experiencing a mining boom. The country’s Gobi desert is rich in coal, gold, copper and lithium, and many foreign multinational companies are eager to exploit Mongolia’s natural resource opportunities, which could transform the country and lift it out of poverty. However, past examples show that a rapid increase in wealth in countries with weak government and civic structures can lead to corruption and autocracy. Thus, “Mine-golia” should be careful not to fall prey to the so-called resource curse. (Guardian)

Haiti’s Gold Rush (August 15, 2012)

Foreign companies, such as US-based Newmont and VCS Mining and Canada-based Majescor and Eurasian Minerals, have started exploring Haiti's gold, silver, copper, and zinc deposits. These natural resources could create thousands of jobs while bringing millions of dollars in tax revenue. But many Haitians are justly apprehensive about their government's connivance with company interests. In order to guarantee the benefits for its people, the weak Haitian government would have to oversee the environmental impact of these powerful firms and make sure they respect the rules of exploration and land acquisition. If Haiti does not obtain advantageous deals with the companies, an important opportunity will be lost. (Guernica)

Africa's Natural Resources can be a Blessing, not an Economic Curse (August 6, 2012)

This Guardian article discusses the "resource curse" that plagues many resource-rich countries. Extracting resources brings about little job creation and volatile resource prices generate unstable growth. Moreover, most of the wealth generated from resources goes abroad, depriving countries from revenues. Weak political institutions and corruption aggravate the problem. In this article, J. Stiglitz gives a number of measures that resource-rich countries need to take in order to turn this “resource curse” into a "resource blessing". (Guardian)

Standoff at Scarborough Shoal (August 3, 2012)

In early April, the Philippines' naval forces intercepted eight Chinese vessels that were illegally fishing in the Scarborough Shoal. The Scarborough Shoal, a small cluster of islands located in the South China Seas, is rich in natural resources including fish stocks and enormous oil and gas deposits. Although the islands fall under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone according to international maritime law, China also claims ownership. This has pushed the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia to cooperate on joint security and to strengthen military ties with the US and Australia. Tension between both sides over the disputed territory is leading to increasing militarization of the region which could potentially escalate. (Al Jazeera)

Nigeria's Petroleum Industry Bill: Reasons to be Sceptical (August 2, 2012)

In 2008, the Nigerian government introduced the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The PIB bill was created to ensure that Nigeria’s oil sector complies with international norms. The Bill calls for the amelioration of the fiscal terms of oil production as to allow the government to collect more revenue, while removing the regulatory powers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). However, the government’s and western oil companies’ powerful vested interests in the oil sector prevented progress. The Petroleum Industry Bill could be another failed attempt at changing the oil sector in Nigeria to the benefit of its people. (Think Africa Press)

DRC: Katanga's Artisanal Miners Face Uncertain Future (June 23, 2012)

In 2007, about 150,000 to 200,000 children in the Katanga province of the DRC made their living through the informal and illegal activity of artisanal or small-scale mining (ASM). Over the past years, there has been a rise in artisanal mining which is mainly due to the country’s under-development, lack of employment, corruption, and ineffective government. ASM activity is still unregulated and abuses are soaring, with artisanal miners being subject to excessive informal taxes. Despite the decline in mineral prices, ASM is still one of the few economic opportunities in the country and changes in the government’s mining policy are becoming imperative. (Think Africa Press)

Tullow Oil’s Foul Play in Ghana (June 28, 2012)

In Ghana, Tullow Oil has failed to honor its so-called commitments to corporate responsibility and local development. Despite transparency claims, Tullow has refused to issue the contracts it signed to develop the Jubilee oil field. Moreover, gas flaring is ongoing at the Jubilee field. Despite Tullow’s claims that the flaring of gas is for “health and safety” reasons, this flaring releases toxic chemicals that are damaging the local environment. Most importantly, it affects the local fishing communities whose traditional livelihoods have been threatened. The result is not only detrimental to the environment; it is also a waste in a country that is currently dependent on gas imports from Nigeria. (Platform London)

EU Announces Arctic Policy, But What Does it Mean? (July 4, 2012)

On July 3, the European Commission published a document delineating its policy towards the Arctic region. The document states that the EU will join forces with Arctic partners from the private sector to extract hydrocarbons, minerals, fish and biogenetic resources. What the document fails to mention is the potential consequences of large scale oil spills for the environment. Moreover, the melting of the icecap is making more resources accessible thus potentially leading to more clashes between world’s largest powers. (Platform London)

Black Gold in the Congo: Threat to Stability or Development Opportunity? (July 11, 2012)

The discovery of new oil reserves in the DRC presents a substantial threat to the fragile post-conflict environment of the country. Oil explorations are flaring up old animosities among the different local ethnicities and are adding to regional tensions with neighboring countries due to the absence of fixed borders in the Great Lakes region. Moreover, the weak Congolese government has not been able to mediate between the profit-driven interests of western companies and the concerns of the local population. In a region where rampant poverty, state failure and regional insecurity are dominant, a new oil rush will have severe consequences. (International Crisis Group)

Liberia's Hasty Forest Sell-off Risks more Conflict? (July 5, 2012)

More than half of Liberia's rich forests have been allocated to foreign logging companies without any compliance with local regulations. Despite local communities owning the land under customary Liberian law, the country’s constitution allows for land expropriation if it is "in the public interest". Although the government has been promising compensations to its people, much of the logging in Liberia goes unchecked and few benefits reach the population. The government does not have the capacity to inspect these foreign companies and corruption prevents the local communities from profiting from these gains. (Guardian)

Scratching the Surface: Are Zambians about to Get their Dues from Foreign Miners? (June 15, 2012)

Zambia is Africa’s top copper producer but the country’s natural resource has not brought the financial gains it promised. While the Zambian population still dwells in poverty, big mining companies are making huge profits. The Zambian government is collecting little revenue due to weak tax laws. Zambian laws authorize foreign direct investors to transfer all their profits to overseas banks without any ceiling or restrictions. In order to improve the lives of the local population, the government should develop a better tax system and insure that mining companies do not transfer all their profits abroad. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

Mining Royalty Reform Need Not Deter Investors (Jule 4, 2012)

A number of African countries have recently started revising their mining codes in order to increase their governments’ share of revenues. These policies follow an increase in commodity prices and seek to redress inequitable mining concessions. Royalties in the majority of African countries are fixed at an ad-valorem rate of 3 percent while foreign mining firms enjoy excessive tax exemptions. The current investor-friendly mining codes in Africa have been imposed by the World Bank to encourage private investment. This has resulted in low revenues for African countries, with no gains for the local population. (Financial Times)

Questions over London-Listed Miner ENRC’s Congo Deals (June 12, 2012)

Western companies, such as mining giant ENRC, are buying DRC’s most valuable natural resource assets through a succession of opaque deals. The DRC’s natural resources, including vast reserves of copper, cobalt and coltan, gold, diamonds and oil, are being sold off to foreign companies with a great loss to the poor population. The dubious deals include payments to corrupt Congolese officials as well as a sell-off of the country’s natural resources without any public tender process. These natural resources fuel the internal conflicts that have been plaguing the country since its independence. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

Kenya: Oil, Hope and Fear (May 29, 2012)

This IRIN article calls attention to the consequences of the newly-confirmed oil reserves in the county of Turkana, Kenya, which is predominantly populated by poor pastoralist communities. The Kenyan government said the country would benefit socially and economically from the oil discovery, but development of the oil field is still likely to increase land prices. Land in Turkana is communally owned by pastoralist communities who attach no monetary value to it and are likely to be displaced with no compensations.(IRIN)

Haiti's Rush for Gold Gives Mining Firms a Free Rein over the Riches (May 30, 2012)

This Guardian article discusses the gold rush that is developing in the north of Haiti. One third of the country is already under license to US and Canadian extractive companies, which have been working with hardly any government oversight. The Haitian government has promised to push through a new mining law to guarantee that mining revenues also benefit the state, but only as long as it does not impede on the companies’ business. Although the prime minister claims that natural resources could help Haiti escape its dependency on foreign aid, the mines are more likely to enrich foreign investors while impoverishing local communities. (Guardian)

A New Frontier: the Rush for Oil and Gas in East Africa (May 29, 2012)

This African Argument article discusses the consequences of the oil and gas rush in Lake Albert. The Lake Albert oil field, located at the center of Africa between Uganda and the DRC, is attracting big Western and Asian oil companies. Although the DRC and Uganda are working towards a “joint oil production zone” on the lake, the two countries have not been able to reach an agreement on where the sovereign border runs. The oil and gas discoveries across the region are likely to lead to an escalation of militarization in the region, with negative consequences for the local communities. (African Arguments)

The Looting of Nigeria (May 22, 2012)

This Counterpunch article discusses how western companies are looting Nigeria’s oil while the majority of the country is living in poverty. With the help of corrupted government officials, oil companies have managed to get hold of one third of all Nigerian oil illegally. Western oil companies are only paying 9 percent royalty to the Nigerian government depriving it of much needed revenues. While Nigeria exports almost all of its crude oil, it imports the majority of its fuels needs and is struggling to pay back predatory loans. The Nigerian economy is almost completely dependent on oil exports and, at this rate, it is bound to collapse. (Counterpunch)

FDI- A Blessing or a Curse for West Africa? (May 22, 2012)

West Africa has been attracting many Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) due to its natural resource wealth, mainly oil and agriculture. Although FDI is claimed to promote economic development and improve social wellbeing, it is often a form of resource imperialism. While the US and the EU have historically been the largest FDI sources in the region, China’s investments have dramatically increased within the last 30 years. Emerging economies consequently have become the stage of great power competition, with both China and the US using FDI to advance their own geopolitical and economic interests.(ISN)

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel (May 18, 2012)

This Engineering News article points out that, despite the investments in unconventional oil sources, the peak oil challenge still remains. Conventional crude oil production has been flat since 2005 while unconventional sources like biofuels have experienced growth. But conventional oil is in decline and unconventional resources cannot fill the gap, so prices will continue to rise. The environmental impact of unconventional oil production will also be very damaging. The author warns that; if we do not stop depending on oil soon, economic growth will end and environmental degradation will worsen. (Engineering News)

The Energy Wars Heat Up (May 10, 2012)

In this article, Michael T. Klare signals the eruption of clashes over energy supplies around the globe. From Sudan to the Falkland Islands, the South China Seas to the Arabian Gulf, we see an intensified struggle to secure valuable energy supplies, especially oil and gas deposits. Moreover, large existing oil and gas fields are being exhausted rapidly and new fields are smaller and harder to exploit. This will only increase the probability of conflict over oil and gas reserves. Around the world, state actors associate energy assets with wealth, power and prestige, which suggests that we are entering an era of intensified conflict over energy.  (TomDispatch)

Exploitation of African Seas and Fisheries: Time to Stop Turning a Blind Eye (March 29, 2012)

This article, by the former UK diplomat Bob Dewar, calls attention to the ongoing destruction of environment and livelihoods in Africa's fishing grounds. Having already depleted stocks in their native waters, European and Asian fleets are illegally and unsustainably raiding the African coast, to the detriment of local communities’ food and economic security. In February of this year, GPF wrote on the illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping off the coast of Somalia, and its direct influence on the proliferation of piracy in the region.  Dewar's article further highlights the importance of international action in this area, for the future stability and security of African economies. (African Arguments)

The Story of Niger, or How Not to Have an Oil Boom While Your People Starve (March 29, 2012)

While Niger’s GDP is rising by 14%, its population is suffering from widespread famine. In recent years, Niger has developed a significant oil industry. But while billions of dollars are going into the Nigerian economy, the local population has not benefited. Niger’s 2010 constitution guaranteed that the government would make public all contracts and revenues from the oil sector. However, these figures have not yet been published. This article suggests that the government should make funds available for emergency relief and that foreign oil corporations operating in Niger, such as China’s CNPC and Algeria’s Sonatrach, should delay cost recovery claims for the sake of the population. (OpenOil)

The Deadly Scramble for the World's Last Resources (March 19, 2012)

In this interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Michael T. Klare explains how the increasingly fraught race to seize the world’s dwindling resources is undermining human security. Rising production costs and the proliferation of land grabbing is undermining food and tenure security, while the threat of resource-based conflict remains ever present. In Klare’s words, now we have reached “peak everything” we must change our behavior today to avoid a world dominated by permanent battles over energy security. (Rolling Stone) 

How Afghanistan Can Escape the Resource Curse (February 29, 2012)

This Foreign Policy article expounds on the Afghanistan’s resource wealth and its possible routes to recovery, while carefully avoiding explaining the immediate causes of the country’s instability and rampant corruption.  An unspoken assumption is that it will be foreign investors, overcoming the difficulties thrown up by the local population and geography, which will open Afghanistan to ‘development’- rather than local or government-led initiatives.  Nonetheless, a business-centric look at Afghanistan in the context of other Central Asian economies is a welcome alternative to the security-led narrative which dominates the media.  (FP)

Liberia Land Deals with Foreign Firms 'Could Sow Seeds of Conflict' (February 29, 2012)

Sime Darby Plantation Inc. has signed a 63-year contract with the Liberian government to develop 220,000 hectares of land for palm oil. Most of Liberia's rural population lives on the unregistered land that, under Liberian law, is owned by the government. Although the population was promised compensation, the government has failed to secure the community's interest. If the government does not change course, this and other deals could drive large numbers of families from the land and lead to serious internal conflict or renewed civil war. (Guardian)

Cold War in Warm Waters: US-China's Dangerous Contest for Asia-Pacific (February 27, 2012)

This Toward Freedom articles discusses how the South China Sea, rich in oil, natural gas and other resources, could be the scene of a new Cold War. While China’s influence is growing in the region, the US, fearing Chinese dominance, is shifting its focus to the Asia Pacific region in order to maintain a level of global hegemony. Other bordering countries, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei are caught in the middle of this dispute. They can either accept China’s supremacy or bow to US military presence in the region. The South China Sea is likely to become one of the main sources of conflict in the near-future, with further clashes risking heating up this new Cold War.(Toward Freedom)

Congo: Due Diligence Can Help Efforts to End Resource-Based Conflict (February 15, 2012)

In this article, Fred Robarts and Greg Mthembu-Salter from the Group of Experts on the DRCargue that resource-fueled conflicts could be significantly reduced if countries decreased the opacity of mineral global commodity chains by enforcing existing due diligence legislation.  Through embedding due diligence reports in the business culture of mineral supply, the industry could reduce the ability of violent groups to utilize the resource, while at the same time providing income and development for local communities detached from the conflict. (African Arguments)

Wish You Were Mine (February 11, 2012)

This Economist article presents the corporate view of Africa as the next frontier for mining companies. Over the years, African governments have been renegotiating contacts with foreign mining companies to prevent the looting of its resources. This article claims that “resource nationalism”-greater government involvement in mining business- is one of the biggest “risks” for those billion dollar oil corporations. Allegedly, governments would be using the poverty argument as “a ready excuse” to “squeeze” more money out of foreign businesses growing rich off Africa’s mineral wealth. This Economist article represents Big Oil’s interests in the matter. (Economist)

Pirate Fishing (February 2, 2012)

In Sierra Leone, fish is a vital protein source for the local population as well as an important source of income. But European and Asian industrial fishing companies are exploiting Sierra Leone’s marine resources through illegal fishing off the coast of Sierra Leone where corruption encourages local officials to turn a blind eye to foreign trawlers’ activities. This Al Jazeera documentary tries to denounce the actors involved in the lucrative fishing trade while looking at the negative consequences for the people of Sierra Leone. (Al Jazeera)


How Do We End Conflict over E. Africa's Natural Resources (December 25, 2011)

Pastoral tribal communities in East Africa have long been engaged in traditional territorial conflicts.  However, as competition increases for access to land, water and other natural resource, these conflicts have intensified - and new conflicts, with governments, mining companies and national parks, have emerged. This article, drawing on a report from the Minority Rights Group International, highlights the increasingly precarious position of marginalized communities in a land fraught with drought, instability and cattle rustling. The ongoing struggle for ownership of land is both a means of survival and a key component of ancient cultural identities. (Daily Montior)

Great Lakes: At Risk of "War for Food, Space" (November 1, 2011)

The Great Lakes region in Africa faces chronic food insecurity that might eventually lead to a war for food and space. As the population is growing, farmers encounter more difficulties to meet the increasing food demand, while infrastructure and government support for agriculture remain poor. Besides, rising agricultural productivity means an increasing demand for land, which puts the environment under strain and threatens the population’s livelihood. (IRIN News)

Africa Rising: Sierra Leone, Liberia Set Up High-Tech Solutions to Illegal Fishing (October 11, 2011)

Illegal foreign commercial fishing is robbing countries off the coast of West Africa of a vital natural resource. To combat the practice, governments in these countries are implementing solutions that will allow local fishermen to monitor and report vessels that may be breaking the law. Sierra Leone is overhauling its fisheries legislation to boost enforcement and has recently introduced a high-tech vessel monitoring system to work with community surveillance mechanisms. In Liberia, artisanal fishermen newly equipped with smartphones are able to snap geo-tagged pictures and send the images in real time to government authorities. (Christian Science Monitor)

Africa Rising: Will Ivory Coast Stop Feeding the Global Chocolate Habit? (October 5, 2011)

Ivory Coast grows a third of the world’s cocoa production and cocoa constitutes its primary export. But it seems unlikely that Ivory Coast’s production will meet the global demand for cocoa. Two civil wars and the lack of financial means have prevented the cocoa sector from recovering. Farmers have stripped the soil from its nutrients and growing cocoa does not attract young people anymore. This production fall will lead to higher prices and chocolate will become a very expensive good. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Transparency a Cure for the 'Resources Curse' (September 23, 2011)

A coalition of civil society organizations is proposing a new transparency law aimed at making oil, gas, and mining companies disclose far more information about their operations. If adopted internationally, legally binding transparency measures will serve to combat corruption, making these industries more accountable to citizens’ needs. Such laws would help create the necessary conditions for countries to profit from their natural resources-wealth. The US has already made strides in transparency legislation with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, and the EU is poised to propose its version of the transparency law, with France and the UK urging its swift adoption. (Guardian)

Women at the Mercy of Climate Change (September 9, 2011)

Southern Africa is plagued by food insecurity due to floods and prolonged drought. Food shortages are mostly affecting Lesotho and Namibia, in particular poor households, and are directly related to climate change. This article points out that women will be the first affected by these changes because of their role as food providers and producers. But in most cases, only men can own land and women are still excluded from land reform. The best way to curb the effect of climate change would be to buy local and organic. Governments support for small-scale farmers would not only help these women, it would also mitigate the effects of climate change. (Mail & Guardian online)

Expanding Desert, Falling Water Tables, and Toxic Pollutants Are Driving People From Their Homes (August 31, 2011)

Climate change and the recurrence of natural catastrophes will have long-term consequences for populations in several parts of the world. Deserts are advancing and water is becoming increasingly scarce, while toxic waste and high radiation levels threaten the lives of entire communities. These problems mostly affect Africa, the Middle East and Asia, in particular China and India. They will force populations to resettle elsewhere, thus increasing the number of environmental refugees. Governments will have to address the causes of these migratory fluxes and help developing countries in implementing efficient economic measures to fight against poverty. (AlterNet)

How to Wreck a Planet 101 (June 5, 2011)

Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil, highlights that the global energy crisis is worsening. Since the beginning of 2011, population demonstrations across the Middle East have indirectly caused an increase in oil prices, the crisis in Japan has put the safety of nuclear power into question, droughts have reduced the amount of energy produced by hydroelectric power, and critics have challenged fracking as a means of extracting natural gas. As Klare points out, the need to obtain more energy is causing irreversible harm to the planet and contributing to climate change. (Tom's Dispatch)
A trail court in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh has found physician and human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen guilty of sedition and has sentenced him to life in prison. Human rights activists believe that he is being persecuted by the government in an effort to silence dissent. Sen has investigated and exposed numerous rights violations, and has openly advocated on behalf of tribal people who reside in the mineral rich land of Chhattisgarh and are being uprooted from their land by the state government. Sen's reports are obstacles to capital investment and natural resource exploitation in the region. (Democracy Now!)

The Year of Living Dangerously: Rising Commodity Prices and Extreme Weather Events Threaten Global Stability (January 23, 2011)

Food and energy experts are warning that prices will continue to rise in 2011, which will put more strain on the rising demand for these commodities.  The increase in prices will likely lead to more revolts over the higher costs for basic goods, like the 2011 Tunisian protests that ousted the government. The elevated cost of oil will most likely hurt the economic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis; consumers will be less likely to spend money as their finances recover. Given the number of catastrophic environmental disasters over the last few years, this article also argues that more natural disasters will occur in 2011 and put further pressure on the limited supply and increasing demand for resources. (Tom Dispatch)


The Role of Natural Resources in Civil Wars (May 3, 2010)

Media coverage on the war in DRC often focuses on atrocities committed by the army and rebels. But foreign governments and multinational corporations (MNC’s) are also responsible for the plunder and the killings in the country. Many inter and intra state conflicts since the 1990’s have one feature in common – natural resources such as gold, tin, cobalt and timber often fuel and sustain the fighting. Militias purchase items like weapons from the funds they get from selling mineral resources to foreign multinationals. The UN should use carefully target MNCs through commodity sanctions to deter illegal commodity flows. (Towards Freedom)


Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa (December 2009)

A research paper published in the Proceedings of the United States National Academy of Sciences claims that rising temperatures will increase the risk of civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the study, the variation in agricultural productivity is the central mechanism linking global warming to conflict. With a majority of the population relying on agriculture for income and subsistence, warming temperatures will take a heavy toll on the region's economy, leading to social unrest and making conflict more likely. (PNAS)

Managing Scarcity: The Institutional Dimensions (August 25, 2009)

This article highlights the interconnection between international security and the global demand for resources. A rounded response to security threats, he says, must address resource scarcity. Evans highlights population growth, sustainable agriculture, social safety nets and natural resource governance as all demanding consideration when addressing global security. The article argues local social issues are not irrelevant to international peace, thus the UN's security agendas must become more interdisciplinary and multidimensional.

From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment (February 2009)

This UN report shows that since 1990 at least eighteen violent conflicts, including Sudan, Congo and Angola, have been fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources. Over the last sixty years natural resources have accounted for more than forty percent of the intrastate conflicts. These conflicts then damage the environment and deplete existing resources, which creates a vicious circle. Natural resources, however, can be used constructively in the process of peacebuilding, as has been proven in the cases of economic recovery via national park tourism in Rwanda and reforestation in Haiti. (United Nations Environment Programme)

Imperial Clash on the Congo Resource Front (February 17, 2009)

Ken Anderson deconstructs a false assumption that most of "Congo's riches" are being looted by "dastardly renegade troops" to fund their military operations. The author demonstrates that western government-backed militias waged conflicts to cover the operations of competing resource extraction western networks run from Rwanda and Uganda. The western mining companies considered the $9 billion agreement between China and the Congolese government as a threatening foray to their monopoly on natural resources in this region. As Kigali proceeded further with China in the negotiations, they backed the 2008 open-ended "ethnic war" in RDC to push the Congolese government to break the contract. As Anderson points out, this conflict is not to take hold of Congo ore, but to prevent "an above-the-board grab by China." (Hungry for Truth, Peace, and Justice)

US-UK Roles in Congo's Blood Diamonds Industry (February 15, 2009)

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one the bloodiest conflicts of our time. Although the Security Council sent MONUC to the region, the mission has not brought an end to the bloody conflict. The US and the UK have given Rwanda and Uganda millions of dollars in military aid, which these countries have used to infiltrate the DRC. Furthermore, this article shows that both P5 members have an interest in the sustaining the conflict in order to exploit Congolese natural resources including diamonds. (Black Star News)

Activists Slam World's ‘Grotesque Indifference' to DRC (December 17, 2008)

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has cost the lives of 5 million people. Electronics manufacturers in rich countries fund the conflict and contribute to extraordinary violence against women by buying "blood coltan" and other natural resources. The author argues that these products are often transported to other producing countries to make them seem "conflict free." (Pambazuka)


Canada in Africa: The Mining Superpower (November 20, 2008)

Canada has made major investments in the African mining industry totalling a value of US$14.7 billion in 2007, and its investments in the sector are expected to grow to US$21 billion by 2010. Whereas Canada had mining activities in 24 African countries in 2001, by 2007 that figure has grown to 35 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the struggle for natural resources causes conflict. (Pambazuka)

Congo's Riches Are Plundered By Renegade Army Brigade (November 15, 2008)

In the 19th century, colonial power Belgium exploited rubber from Congo and after independence in 1960, Zaire's ruler Mobutu Sese Seko used Congo's cobalt to support the US, which used the mineral to build fighter jets. In 2008, international mining companies try to get hold of Congo's natural resources, resulting in increased fighting between governmental and rebel troops, which try to make a profit out of the mineral business as well. (International Herald Tribune)

Niger's Mine War (July 6, 2008)

The Nigerien Movement for Justice (NMJ) argues that foreign mining companies profit too much from Niger's uranium revenue and wants the government to transfer 50 percent of the proceeds to local communities. The NMJ also wants to prioritize local employment opportunities and stop foreign companies from buying lands inhabited by indigenous people. The effect of mining pollutes the drinking water and makes it impossible for the indigenous population to herd their cattle on the infected land. Niger remains the third largest uranium exporter in the world but it is one of the poorest countries too. (Le Monde diplomatique)

Copper Colony in Congo (July 2008)

This Le Monde diplomatique article argues that foreign mining companies profit immensely from deals made with the Congolese government in which they receive a 30-year tax exemption. Furthermore, these companies ignore the environmental and social damage that their mining contracts cause. In addition, mining contractors mostly work with machines that replace manual work, hiring only a limited number of local mine workers, who receive a small minimum wage.

A Global Threat Multiplier (March 20, 2008)

According to openDemocracy, climate change will cause conflict over natural resources in the poorest nations of the world. The article warns that as glaciers melt, changes in river flows and irrigation will exacerbate tensions over food and water resources. The author argues that climate change constitutes a "threat to international peace and security." However, rather than a military response, global warming requires richer nations to reduce their carbon emissions and at the same time increase development aid to those countries most affected by global warming.

Climate Change May Spark Conflict with Russia, EU Told (March 10, 2008)

This Guardian article summarizes a European Union policy paper that highlights the link between global warming and the rising competition for natural resources. Impending climate change may create conflicts between Europe and Russia as untapped resources become available. The Arctic is a pertinent example: as polar icecaps melt, Europe and Russia will attempt to control new waterways and mineral resources, "changing geostrategic dynamics in the region."


Dealing With Africa's Resource Curse (September 2, 2007)

Africa's vast natural and mineral resources present immense opportunities for African countries to obtain much needed funds for development. However, the mineral and oil resources have mainly brought conflicts and led foreign powers such as the US and China to increasingly seek trade agreements and military presence on the continent. The competition for Africa's resources has also caused increased corruption and internal dissent as profit benefits mainly the countries' elites. The conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo present disturbing examples of the possible effects of the international economic expansion into Africa.(Monitor)

UN Spotlights Link Between Natural Resources and Conflict (June 25, 2007)

Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht of Belgium, President of the UN Security Council for the month of June 2007, chaired a debate on the role of natural resources in conflict. Security Council ambassadors linked natural resources to conflict in Angola, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. Ambassadors also professed the importance of targeted sanctions and programs such as the Kimberly Process for diamonds. (Agence France Presse)

China's Rise: Hope or Doom for Africa? (June 16, 2007)

Chinese companies illegally exploit African timber, ore, ivory and fish resources, claims the New Vision- Kampala. A University of Brussels report describes how economic interests lead Chinese companies operating in Africa to elude export taxes, violate production limits and disregard human rights and environmental standards. Chinese policy in Africa exemplifies how oil and arms profits drive UN Security Council politics on Darfur.

Hot Chocolate: How Cocoa Fuelled the Conflict in Cote d'Ivoire (June 2007)

This Global Witness report details how cocoa perpetuates war in the Ivory Coast. Both Laurent Gbagbo's government and the rebel Forces Nouvelles (FN) use cocoa proceeds to purchase weapons. Additionally, the two parties' desire to retain the lucrative status quo of the Ivorian cocoa industry serves as a block to negotiations. The report argues that the chocolate industry, including US companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, must guarantee conflict-free cocoa by publishing to whom and in what amount cocoa payments are made, and by auditing cocoa supply chains.

Scramble for Africa (May 2, 2007)

The Guardian assesses the exploitation of resources in Africa today that continues despite the end of colonialism. In the race for geo-political control and access to natural resources, the US has set up bases in African countries to establish its presence there, France and Britain have made large financial investments in some African countries, and China has sold arms to certain African governments while canceling debt and offering condition-free loans.

Wealth in Africa's Conflict Zones (November 15, 2006)

While African countries such as Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) possess large potential for economic development thanks to their abundant natural resources, they have long been plagued by conflict. The exploitation of natural resources has taken place despite war and violence, exacerbating internal conflict. This BBC article points out that regardless of the UN involvement in these countries, through peacekeeping operations and transitional process, the lack of political commitment from African governments prevents a consistent use of natural resources to improve countries' development.


The Coming Resource Wars (March 11, 2006)

The increase likelihood of violent conflict over land, water and energy – dubbed "resource conflicts" – has prompted the US and UK to put the matter at the top of their political agenda. Policymakers view environmental and resource effects - rather than political orientation and ideology - as the most potent source of armed conflict in the decades to come. However, scientists and state officials disagree on the means to avoid these forms of conflict: the former advocate meaningful environmental steps to reduce the risk of cataclysmic climate change, while the latter prefer to rely on military force to provide some degree of advantage in the global struggle over resources. (TomPaine)

Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the Congo (March 1, 2006)

The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has claimed more lives than any armed conflict since World War II. Yet rich countries seem unwilling to commit to solving the conflict "because of powerful economic and geopolitical interests." Mining multinationals are willing to do whatever it takes to profit from Congo's diamond, gold, uranium, petroleum, and coltan resources – including smuggling gold through local rebel militias and committing gross human rights abuses. This ZNet article offers detailed information about the multinational's plunder of DRC's natural resources including the names of eminent individuals involved.


Cocoa's Bitter Tale (December 4, 2005)

In thousands of villages in western Ivory Coast, indigenous tribes and newer settler groups clash violently over cocoa land. Although government troops and UN peacekeepers monitor Ivory Coast's cocoa belt, a UN human rights expert said the violence "raised the risk of widespread conflict." (Newsday)

Resources Smuggling Fuels Ivory Coast Rebels-UN (October 13, 2005)

According to UN experts, revenue from illegal cocoa, cotton and diamonds helps fund military activities of rebel groups in Ivory Coast. Millions of dollars of rough diamonds are mined and exported in spite of a government ban on the trade, fueling conflicts and unrest in neighboring Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Reuters)

Revealed: The New Scramble for Africa (June 1, 2005)

A Guardian investigation reveals that the world's most powerful nations – the US, UK, China and France – are keeping impoverished African countries in debt and vulnerable to natural resources exploitation. Giant western corporations are readily providing these countries with "huge oil-backed loans," and "are competing for profit" by providing kick-backs to corrupt officials in exchange for lucrative deals. The British government will push more African countries to sign up to a transparency code at the July 2005 G8 summit in Scotland, but "campaigners say that…improvements in Western behavior so far appear slight."


We Can Now Cure Dutch Disease (August 18, 2004)

Joseph Stiglitz comments on how to mitigate the "resource curse," whereby abundant natural wealth creates rich countries with poor people, and fuels wars and conflict. Stiglitz recommends such countries promote "democratic, consensual and transparent processes," take steps to combat currency appreciation, and use "stabilization funds" to reduce economic volatility linked to resource prices. He also calls on Western governments to implement "common-sense reforms," such as stopping massive arms sales to developing countries. (Guardian)

DRC Plunder: UK Accused of Failing to Act on Firms Named in UN Report (January 5, 2004)

A number of British MPs and NGOs complain about London's reluctance to pursue the four UK companies named in a UN panel of experts' report on the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Despite Security Council statements urging states to act on the panel's findings, London says it is not able to do anything, as the UN report was "too general in content and relates only to some of the named companies." (East African)


Lifting the Natural Resource Curse (December 2003)

Insufficient supervision and regulation of the world's natural resources creates an impediment to development. This article suggests a range of measures, such as the Publish What You Pay Campaign, which calls on natural resources companies to disclose information about their transactions, making sure that revenues don't fuel conflicts. (Foreign Service Journal)

World Bank Should Revamp Loans to Mining Schemes (April 2, 2003)

A report by the World Bank's internal review body, the Operations Evaluation Department (OED), says Bank lending for mining, oil, and gas projects has overwhelmingly resulted in "bad development outcomes." The report urges the Bank to include independent audits of environmental impacts and community participation for extraction industry projects. (Inter Press Service)

The Hydrogen Hypocrites (February 6, 2003)

The US and its energy allies are pressing for coal and oil to become increasingly dominant energy sources over the next 20 years. The US initiative on hydrogen is merely an attempt to distract the media from Bush's woeful environmental record. (TomPaine)

Conflict over Natural Resources in South-East Asia and the Pacific (1990)

Book published (full text available) by the United Nations University's Programme on Peace and Global Transformation about the interlinkages between natural resources, security, vulnerability and violence.


The New Geography of Conflict (June 2001)

Michael Klare argues that resource competition will define the nature of global conflict in the future, as vital natural resources such as oil, water, minerals, and timber become increasingly scarce. (Foreign Affairs)


Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy (June 15, 2000)

The full text of the World Bank report which explores the economic basis for conflict.


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